Light winds all week, with overlapping long period groundswells
Victorian Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Monday 19th October)
Best Days: Tues/Wed/Thurs/Fri: overlapping long period groundswells, with generally light winds and sea breezes. Tues PM and Thurs PM for the most size.
Recap: Light offshore winds on Saturday morning offered great beachies across the Surf Coast with a peaky mix of SW and SE swells in the 3ft range. Bigger surf was reported east of Melbourne. Fresh onshore winds settled into the afternoon and persisted through Sunday with poor surfing options across both coasts. A new groundswell built late in the day and peaked overnight, and is now easing across the region with light winds and 2-3ft sets west of Melbourne, bigger east of Melbourne.
This week (Oct 20 - 24)
*This week’s Forecaster Notes will be a little erratic as Craig’s on annual leave*
This week’s surf outlook can best be described in firefighting parlance, as ‘watch and act’.
Since last Monday I’ve detailed a couple of long range groundswells inbound this week from various regions of our distant swell window. One swell is already on the way - its leading edge was detected across WA coasts a few hours ago with peak swell periods around 20 seconds - whilst the second swell is undergoing generation well to the SW of WA.
As such, there’s really not much more we can do except await their arrival at the various buoys throughout SA, Vic and Tas, and then track their profiles.
Local conditions look generally very good. A lack of synoptic influences means we’ll see slack conditions all week, with light variable morning winds and afternoon sea breezes.
Note: ‘variable’ winds means ‘from any direction’ - which could be onshore - though I am doubtful that any onshore breeze we experience (excluding afternoon sea breezes, which are dependent on land/sea temperatures differentials) will be strong enough to adversely affect the surf in a meaningful way.
So, to recap this week’s swell trend in broad brushstrokes, we should see the leading edge of the first swell reach the Cape du Couedic (SA) and Cape Sorell (Tas) buoys within a couple of hours of each other - and this will probably be tonight, between dinner time and midnight (wave models suggest the former, I think it’ll be closer to the latter).
Nevertheless, the bulk swell energy will be trailing quite some distance behind, so expect a slow increase through Tuesday, peaking later in the afternoon ahead of a gradual decrease through Wednesday. At its peak, the Torquay swell magnets should see occasional 4ft, occasionally 4-5ft sets, though it needs to be reiterated that this size range won’t be the norm: not only will set waves be extremely inconsistent (15-20 min flat spells between waves), but most breaks simply won’t pick up the same amount of size, thanks to the effects of local bathymetry. So expect smaller surf at most other locations.
East of Melbourne should peak around the 6ft+ range.
Thursday’s new swell is modeled to reach the wave buoys on Wednesday evening and once again, with the bulk energy located quite some distance behind, we probably won’t see a peak until later Thursday (though probably showing better a little earlier in the day than Tuesday's swell). Size will plateau overnight and then gradually ease through Friday.
The core of this swell is being generated right now from storm force winds around a broad Southern Ocean low SW of WA (see below), and it’s expected to push strongly through our swell window today and tomorrow, continuing to pump out energy. Because the head of the fetch will be closer to the mainland than the source of the Tues/Wed swell, and aimed a little better through our swell window, we’ll see more size, strength and consistency at the coast.
Thursday's pulse should reach peak somewhere in the 5-6ft range west of Melbourne (Thurs PM), and 6-8ft+ east of Melbourne. Again - at least for the Surf Coast - don’t expect the upper end of this size range across most locations, it’s a guideline for the swell magnets.
Although the bigger set waves will be equally infrequent for Thurs/Fri as per Tuesday’s swell, there’ll be a slight difference in the perceived inconsistency - and that’s because the Tues/Wed swell will be the only energy in the water, whilst Thurs/Fri will see decaying energy from Tues/Wed, filling in the gaps with smaller sets.
So, all we can do now is sit back, wait, and see how these events pan out across the coast.
This weekend (Oct 25 - 26)
A secondary front trailing behind the low responsible for our Thurs/Fri swell will provide smaller levels of energy for the weekend. And, another strong polar low developing below the continent Thurs/Fri looks like it’ll generate a strong S/SW swell for late Saturday and Sunday.
However, local conditions look like they’ll come unstuck with a strong high ridging in from the west, freshening southerly winds on Saturday, tending E/SE on Sunday.
This is a shame as we’d otherwise be looking at 3ft+ surf in Torquay for Saturday, building by a couple of feet into Sunday (4-5ft+). But with these conditions there won’t be many surfable options west of Melbourne, and east of Melbourne could be a dicey prospect as those locations that can handle Sunday’s wind will probably be oversized.
I’ll take a closer look on Wednesday to see if the wind outlook has improved for the Surf Coast.
Next week (Oct 27 onwards)
A blocking pattern upstream from the weekend onwards will deliver a spell of regionally small groundswell conditions for the first half of next week. And at the stage we’ve got a period of poor winds to contend with thanks to a stationary high pressure ridge to the south.
The Long Wave Trough is expected to rear up west from WA next week and this will eventually migrate eastwards, though it’s as yet unclear how and when it’ll favour the Victorian region.
More on this in Wednesday’s update.